Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Sabbatical Year Appointment

A number of scholars have suggested that one or more events recited by Luke are related to the sabbatical year. Some have asserted that both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries during a sabbatical year. It has been said that Luke utilized inclusive reckoning of time. The “plucking of the grain” verse[i] is said to occur during a sabbatical year. The famine relief effort and the collection for the poor is a response related to the crisis of the sabbatical year. It is therefore possible that the appointment of the seven is also a response to the crisis of the sabbatical year. The Roman census also coincides with the sabbatical year.

Every seventh year the Israelites were to let the land keep a "sabbath of rest" by not sowing their crops.[ii] This sabbatical year was called "the year of shemitah" or "release"[iii], since all debts were remitted that year. Sabbatical years began with the seventh Jewish month in the fall, commonly called Tishri, corresponding roughly with our month of October.[iv]
Mention is made of sabbatical year chronology because some scholars have used this methodology to set the date of the crucifixion. Zuckerman[v] represents the standard position. In 1973, Ben Zion Wacholder[vi] published a table of sabbatical years being one year later than Zuckerman’s.

Today is 7 Shvat 5765 on the Jewish calendar. The last occurrence of the sabbatical year was in 5761.

[i] Lk. 6:1.
[ii] Lev. 25:2-7.
[iii] Deut. 15:9; 31:10.
[iv] Lev. 25:9.
[v] Benedict Zuckerman published a table of sabbatical years in ancient times about 1856.
[vi] Hebrew Union College Annual 1973 “The Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles during the Second Temple and Early Rabbinical Period, 183-196; Hebrew Union College Annual 1975 The Timing of Messianic Movements and the Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles, 201-218.

copyrighted 2005


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